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Learning to read before starting school

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

My son is 4 and will be starting school in the fall (just before he turns 5 - we live in Scotland and this is the normal starting age)

 

First of all, I believe that all kids are ready for different types of learning at different ages.  Here in Scotland, pre-school involves very little in the way of formal learning.  Even letters and numbers are only casually introduced through puzzles etc, as and when the child takes an interest themselves.  My son started off at pre-school in Texas at 2.5 where they were much more into "learning" and table work and they regularly tried to teach them letters and numbers.  In my opinion, this was a way too early - my son was much more into playing with tractors at this age and not interested in table work in the slightest.  I'm perfectly happy with the way things are done at pre-school here.  However, I'd like to have him starting school with a little bit of a head-start and he's showing signs of being quite interested so I want to capitalise on that interest while he's showing it, without pushing him too hard.  I definitely don't want to him to be fully reading before starting school - I read before school and was fine with it, but I have a feeling that he's the type of kid who will get bored if he's being taught stuff he already knows and act out. 

 

I guess what I'm interested in is what other people have done in terms of pre-school teaching to read and what was useful/less useful and if anything caused a problem when the kid did start school.  I guess I'm also a little bit lost as to where to start.  We do the upper case alphabet (which he knows from Texas pre-school and Sesame Street, but is a bit rusty on) and I'm doing the lower case alphabet and sounds which is going well.  We've also started some basic phonics (-at words) as he's got some simple phonics story books that help with those (but only three phonics sets).  Obviously we do loads of just reading story books together, and he's started "reading" his little sister her books to her (from memory, but following along the words with his finger like he's really reading - super cute!)

 

Thanks in advance for any advice and/or suggestions of books/resources that may help us.  

post #2 of 19

My 4 going on 5 year old has been enjoying some workbooks for writing and spelling and phonics. First we did these dry erase trace and copy books with upper and lowercase letters. Computer games and tv shows and toys had been teaching him letter sounds for a long while already but I'd remind him whenever we worked on a letter if he didn't remember right away. Then we did a phonics book that had fill in the missing first letters, then missing last letters, practice with short vowels and long vowels, and blends of 2 consonants together. Now he's been doing a spelling one with more of those same things plus some common sight words. Since he's getting more familiar with how words are constructed I've started asking him to tell me what some words in the books I read him say. He's been happy to spell simple small words himself but resistant to reading so far so I take it easy on him about that. It seems spelling before reading will be the path he takes, which makes sense because he's the type that always needs to thoroughly understand things not just memorize them if you know what I mean.

post #3 of 19

He's going to learn as much as he wants/is capable of.

 

When my ds was about 4.5 he took an interest in our BOB books. Once he finished those he started reading Dr. Suess, then Curious George. By the time he started K he could read on a 2nd grade level. We did send him to school with his own books since he had read all the class books. Even in TX K involves a lot of play. Ds did have problems in K (he started at 5.5), but that was more a function of his severe ADHD. He has a cousin who started K at nearly 6yo (late fall birthday), who was quite advanced for K, but did not have any of his issues.

 

My dd is 4.5 and recently took an interest in the BOB books. Her interest is more casual, and though she'll probably finish the series by K I don't expect that she'll be reading at the same level as ds. She also "reads" books to me from memory.

 

If you can play the LeapFrog DVDs they have a progressive series on reading that my children enjoyed.

post #4 of 19

I have two boys.  With my first one, I worked really hard with him on reading prior to starting school.  With my second one, I was much more casual about it.  We do a lot of reading together as a family, and have been reading chapter books together (I read and then we discuss) for some time. 

 

Both of them are very comparable when it comes to reading now, so I am not sure the early push did much in terms of later achievement. 

 

One book that we used that I really liked was "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 easy lessons"

 

http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Your-Child-Read-Lessons/dp/0671631985/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300373199&sr=8-1

 

I used it with both boys and it was an enjoyable book for us.

 

I really do think the most important thing you can do is expose him to a great variety of books and read a lot as a family.

 

PS.  My older son (now 8) still loves to read to his little brother, who is 6 and reads on his own. 

post #5 of 19

Both mine were reading in preschool. I didn't instigate it with either.

 

My eldest actually started writing long before reading. She picked up all the letters and phonics sounds on her own apparantly. When she decided she wanted to read, every couple days I'd give her a new phonics rule or letter combination sound. In a few weeks she was reading novels. She's pretty atypical all around though. It caused tons of problems in kindergarten and she had to be moved up but like I said, she's pretty unusual all around.

 

My youngest started picking up sight words at 2. By 3, he was actively trying to sound out new words so I would help him when he needed it. At 4, he could pretty much sound out any word he came across individually but he didn't have the stamina to get through even  a simple book Dr. Suess book. After 4 pages, he was just exhausted and that didn't really change until after his 7th birthday. We didn't push it. We had early readers in the house he could pick-up when he wanted but honestly, until 7, reading was a read frustration even though we could see the foundation was there and that he was very bright. So, he started "advanced" in reading in kindie but it really didn't interfere with school. Most of the kids in his kindergarten were at least reading 3 letter words. He fell behind a bit in 1st and then took off in 2nd. At the age of 10, his last assessment put him in the high schools range in English and about 7th grade in Spanish. Honestly, I don't think the fact that he could read signs at 2 made much difference. He wasn't physically and developmentally ready to be a truely fluent reader until 7.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that it's going to happen when it happens. It doesn't hurt to have early readers at home. We had a set of BOB books that my youngest in particular really liked along with other clever little readers. My youngest really loved the leap pad which did give him a really big sight word vocabulary. Certainly answer questions as they come. Some 4-year-olds do like more formal learning and a program could be used but I'm afraid I don't know of any personally. Keep in mind, if he doesn't take off, there might be a developmental or physical reason. For example, most kids are born far-sighted and their eyes don't finish developing until around 7. This means print can be hard to focus on.

 

post #6 of 19

My son is turning 4 soon, so I'm also really interested in pre-reading activities!  I know he'll learn to read in first grade, but I'm with you in that I'd like him to start a little ahead and already be familiar with some prereading stuff.

 

Have you considered working with your son on the sounds each letter makes? That is a really important precursor to reading but it will still let him actually "learn to read" in school so he won't be bored. But if he knows the sounds each letter makes it will give him a great leg-up once he starts school.  My son knows all the letters in the alphabet so we've been working on the sounds.  Some letters only make 1 sound so they're easy (and my son already knew the sound.  D for example, says "duh"), but there are other letters (like the vowels!) that make a few different sounds.  So it is definitely taking some time for my son to learn those.

 

Here's a great article with tips for introducing your child to the letters and their sounds.  It's from a school readiness website that has free tips for helping your child develop certain skill sets that are important for school readiness.  So letter and word awareness is (obviously!) one of the areas they talk about. The site also has free worksheets you can use with your son if you want. So far I've used the phonemic awareness worksheets and visual discrimination worksheets with my son and he has loved them.  Each one only takes him a few minutes to do, but if I print off 2 or 3 at a time, it seems to be enough since his attention span isn't much longer than 5-10 minutes away.  Here's a link to the free kindergarten worksheets, but you can poke around on the site and it will give you lots of ideas of how to start working with your son.

 

Good luck! :)

post #7 of 19

Well, if you do videos at all, the Leap Frog Letter Factory got dd the sounds of all the letters.  Of course, she was young enough that singing frogs were fascinating (the whole reason we even checked the dvd from the library let me tell you I was astonished that she ended up knowing all the letter sounds), might not be as awesome for a 4 year old.

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all your tips and resources - it's really interesting to hear about all your experiences with this. 

post #9 of 19

My kids all taught themselves to read before kindergarten.

 

However, I have to say that I don't believe that knowing how to read entering kindy gives them a "head start" on school.  That has not been my observation at all, and I've known the kids in my kids' classes for 3 years now.  Before, I never believed the old adage that it "evens out" by 2nd or 3rd grade--but I've seen it with my own eyes.  Of course, there are kids who are and were "ahead", but it doesn't have anything to do with them reading early-the ones that "only" were taught to read "early" are pretty much on even footing with everyone else.  (though not being a good reader by 3rd grade seems to have some pretty detrimental effects that I've noticed--since more math/science/social studies requires being able to read and comprehend the materials, vs. the lower grades where most is hands on and doesn't rely so much on reading comprehension).

 

Decoding is a small (but important) part of reading.  it seems like a lot of people (esp. those wanting a leg up) focus a lot on decoding, and not so much retelling/comprehension/retention.  this can lead to a lot of problems and anger with the teacher when their kids are tested as lower in "grade level" of reading once they get to school than the parent expects.  My own DD is a very efficient decoder, but has taken some time to mature into her comprehension, ability to retell, ect.  My DSes seem to have naturally been more holistic readers (their comprehension level has always been on par or beyond their decoding level, the opposite of my DD).  So just be mindful of that, esp. if you are concentrating on them being academically ahead for school entry--it's going to be more able being able to read/decode the words on the page, the reading level also will (hopefully) involve retention, comprehension, ect.

post #10 of 19

I think kids will learn when and where they interested, Most schools group readers in the early grades so they can have the support they need. Reading is complex and includes a host of skills. Just because a child has mastered one doesn't mean they are ready for another. I thought DS was a genius (eyeroll) because he could identify all alphabet letters before 2 but at almost 4 he still doesn't grasp the concept of letter sounds although he can write most of the alphabet, asks for the spelling and writes various words, loves making up and acting out stories, and has good comprehension of what we read. He may or may not read before he starts school and I have to remind myself: it doesn't matter.

 

Ideas to support literacy: workbooks or write on/write off cards for letter writing, some sort of moveable alphabet of felt, wood, plastic whatever, encouraging story-telling and imaginative play, reading various types of books including "baby" board types, story books of various lengths, early readers, discussing the story, plot, character's motivation, vocabulary, etc. I know there are methods to teaching phonics. Phonics were not in vogue when I learned to read.

post #11 of 19

I taught dd the letter sounds and how to string short then long vowel words together when she was interested in it.  We used refrigerator magnets and just played with language for a long time before moving on to easy to read books.  I followed her cues and just went with what she was interested in.  I also kept a lot of paper and writing material at her level and showed dd how I would write certain letters when she asked.

 

I think that what is really going to give a head-start is you reading to him.  I have always read a lot of material to my dd from a wide range of subjects and genres and I think that had a far greater effect on her than her reading.  My dd's vocabulary is well above what is expected for her grade level and her comprehension level is amazing because she can understand what she reads.  In the long run I think vocabulary and comprehension are much more important to success than decoding ability (though that also has its place).  I suggest looking into ways to boost comprehension while you are reading by modeling some of the self talk and prediction that readers do when they are reading a story.  Stopping and asking him to tell you what he thinks will happen next or making a comment about the story and encouraging him to comment also is a nice way to engage him in story time and let him see what we do in our head when we read.  Just reading words in context really helps increase vocabulary and engaging in a dialogue with the story increases comprehension for all readers.


Edited by One_Girl - 3/18/11 at 8:26pm
post #12 of 19
Thanks so much for sharing this article link. I printed that article out and a few of the free worksheets and filed them away so I'll have it handy when I want to teach my little one her letters.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MomtoDandJ View Post

Here's a great article with tips for introducing your child to the letters and their sounds.  It's from a school readiness website that has free tips for helping your child develop certain skill sets that are important for school readiness.  So letter and word awareness is (obviously!) one of the areas they talk about. The site also has free worksheets you can use with your son if you want. So far I've used the phonemic awareness worksheets and visual discrimination worksheets with my son and he has loved them.  Each one only takes him a few minutes to do, but if I print off 2 or 3 at a time, it seems to be enough since his attention span isn't much longer than 5-10 minutes away.  Here's a link to the free kindergarten worksheets, but you can poke around on the site and it will give you lots of ideas of how to start working with your son.

 

Good luck! :)

post #13 of 19

We were taking a pretty hands-off approach. I've always suspected that DD would pick up reading pretty easily and probably fairly young, and she is in the middle of proving us right. But now she'll be 5 next month and is really starting to sound out whole simple sentences. She's been asking to read the stories on starfall.com a lot, but I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I'd rather just let it go and divert her attention to other things, knowing that once she's getting formal instruction next year in K she'll take off with it. I know there are other kids that will be in her class that aren't anywhere near reading. But then I remember the thrill I got when I was 4 and 5 from reading books myself. She's starting to get that, I think. She wants so badly to be able to read fluently and is having a hard time understanding that it takes a lot of practice and that she is JUST starting to learn how. So maybe the right thing to do is give her lots of support and opportunities to practice--this will be the first time she's really consciously choosing to work towards a goal like that, which is exiting for all of us!

 

We do play with words a lot. For example, we'll go back and forth listing rhyming words. Or she'll say a word and then I'll say a similar word and it goes back and forth. This is always totally spontaneous and always ends with laughing when it starts to get really silly. She's been asking how to spell words for 2 years, and I happily oblige. Now she's starting to be able to figure out how to spell a word herself sometimes. We read a TON of books and we are usually pretty particular about the quality of the writing. She has an amazing vocabulary and grasp of sentence structure and I totally attribute that to the books we read.

post #14 of 19

I have to agree with the 'don't worry - it'll even out in school' approach. My son went into kindy without knowing his alphabet or even his numbers up to 10. He just didn't show an interest in learning those things, so I never pushed it (we did work on other things he enjoyed though - he could identify more plants and insects than a lot of adults). He also had a preschool teacher who didn't believe strongly in working on numbers and letters at that age, so he didn't pick it up at preschool, either. I did read to him a LOT, though.

 

He was definitely behind most of the children in his kindy class when he started. By the beginning of 1st grade, though, he was in the second-to-top reading group. They catch up so fast in school - unless your child is really itching to start reading, I might concentrate on learning about things that really interest your child, especially things that might not get as much focus in school.

post #15 of 19

There's more research showing that aural phonetic awareness, like what kids get from hearing nursery rhymes, singing, playing silly rhyming games with your kid, etc, affects future reading positively than formal teaching in the early years (Try Reading Jane Healy's classic book "Why Johnny Can't Read" to see a sampling of some of this research.  Other things there is sound research for (I used to work as a Family Support Worker alongside a preschool teacher and SLP in a family resource centre, so I've been exposed to lots of research) are simply having a print rich environment (like labeling locations for where your child puts away their things alongside a picture of the word and having books available in lots of different locations and rooms), modeling and talking about what you are doing while reading and writing, and most importantly simply reading a lot with your child.  These activities come naturally to parents, don't put off kids and take the fun out of it, and if your child was meant to be an early reader they'll pick it up from this on their own, anyway.

 

From personal experience with my kids I can tell you my middle kid taught herself at three and my last kid couldn't remember the names of his letters at the start of primary and worried his teachers, but is now in grade one and reading chapter books like the Thorton W Burgess ones and Geronimo Stilton.  He caught up when he was ready and is doing no worse for having started reading more slowly than his classmates.  He is now one of the class's strongest readers.

post #16 of 19

I think reading to your child is the most important thing.  I'd read a variety of books, and would definitely include BOB books, Dr. Seuss, an nursery rhymes.

 

For my older child I gave little thought to phonics(and neither did the school reading program).  Turns out that is what she needed to really get her reading.

 

We also did flash cards with sight words.

 

As another poster said learning to read early doesn't give you a head start in most cases, and the edge of being an early reader usually levels out by third grade.

 

A really good book is Straight Talk About Reading by Susan Hall.

post #17 of 19

Before dd started kindergarten, all we did with her at home is read TONS of books (our home is overflowing with books!) ... I didn't push learning to read, though.  At preschool she knew all her letters, and could write them all, and was learning phonics, but she went into kindergarten without knowing how to read yet (pretty much).  But what has been so neat is seeing her reading ability just blossom, completely, since starting school 7 months ago --- now, 7 months later, she reads SO well!  She can read so many books, she sounds out new words, it is amazing!  So as other posts have said, the foundation is what is important --- reading to your child.  Once he/she starts learning from there, it just takes off.  Truly amazing to see.

post #18 of 19

FIRST, SORRY ABOUT CAPS-COMPUTER ISSUE.

 

I THINK ITS NICE TO FOLLOW A CHILD'S INTERESTS, AND IF HE IS SHOWING AN INTEREST IN THIS TYPE OF THING, THEN ENCOURAGE IT.

 

ON THE OTHER HAND, I WOULDNT WORRY ABOUT  GIVING HIM A 'HEAD START' BY ACTIVELY TEACHING HIM TO READ.   H E WILL LEARN WHEN HE IS READY.

 

MY OWN SON IS AN EXAMPLE OF THIS. SURE HE KNEW HIS LETTERS WHEN ENTERING KINDERGARTEN. BUT AS HIS TEACHERS SAID, HE DIDNT KNOW HOW TO REALLY READ.

 

WITHIN 2 MONTHS HOWEVER, DS NOT ONLY BEGAN TO READ, BUT WENT TO THE MOST ADVANCED GROUP IN HIS CLASS. THE OTHER  CHILDREN IN THIS GROUP WERE ALL FLUENT READERS UPON STARTING SCHOOL.

 

I DIDNT  DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY.  I KNOW THEY DO THE USUAL CURRICULUM  AT THE SCHOOL-TEACHING SIGHT WORDS AND SO ON. 

 

YOUR CHILD WILL LEARN TO READ WHEN HE'S READY. I WOULDNT WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT IT.

 

 

post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoveToKnit View Post

Thanks so much for sharing this article link. I printed that article out and a few of the free worksheets and filed them away so I'll have it handy when I want to teach my little one her letters.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MomtoDandJ View Post

Here's a great article with tips for introducing your child to the letters and their sounds.  It's from a school readiness website that has free tips for helping your child develop certain skill sets that are important for school readiness.  So letter and word awareness is (obviously!) one of the areas they talk about. The site also has free worksheets you can use with your son if you want. So far I've used the phonemic awareness worksheets and visual discrimination worksheets with my son and he has loved them.  Each one only takes him a few minutes to do, but if I print off 2 or 3 at a time, it seems to be enough since his attention span isn't much longer than 5-10 minutes away.  Here's a link to the free kindergarten worksheets, but you can poke around on the site and it will give you lots of ideas of how to start working with your son.

 

Good luck! :)


I'm so glad you found it helpful! Take care! smile.gif
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